6 ways to achieve gender pay equality in the science workforce
Did you know that more women achieve first degrees and postgraduate degrees in STEM subjects than men yet only make up 41% of the science workforce? In some parts of the science workforce the imbalance is even starker. Advanced Manufacturing, Metals, Construction & Installation and Energy & Environment are so male-dominated that if you were to gather ten people who worked in a science role in any of these sectors in a room, on average, only one of them would be female.
More females in STEM Higher Education, but not in the science workforce
Many girls and young women are deterred from pursuing a career in science by their learning experiences and the careers advice they receive. Little wonder that they shy away from particular careers if certain sectors are so heavily dominated by men. A long-standing issue is that gender stereotypes continue to place girls in passive and caring roles. The percentage of female apprentices in childcare has been over 90% for the past 10 years, compared to engineering over the same period, where it has been around 5%. This in turn has an impact on the levels of respective pay that men and women receive.
While average wages across the science workforce are generally higher than those across the whole economy, career breaks, particularly at the early family-formation stage, poor promotion and recruitment practices, few part-time roles available at more senior levels in STEM, and a lack of work-life balance are consistently raised as major concerns relating to gender pay issues.
New proposals a step in the right direction
It is therefore welcome that the government has proposed measures to close the gender pay gap, particularly extending monitoring of pay across public sector. As an employer of a significant number of scientists, the government and the public sector should be leading by example to encourage behaviour change across the economy.
With nearly 60% of scientists work in SMEs gender pay monitoring should be extended to all public, private and voluntary sector employers. To accurately measure and assess progress on tackling the pay gap it is essential to have basic data on pay differences, as well as other diversity characteristics, across the whole economy and at all levels of employment.
What measures can be taken?
Women continue to take on the greater burden of caring responsibilities. Yet there are a number of simple ways that government and employers can support a more equitable share of responsibilities, including:
- The provision of more flexible and longer paternity leave
- Ensuring that part-time pay is exactly pro-rata of what would be paid for the role full-time
- Enabling both men and women to work more flexible hours or compress their working hours into fewer days
- Facilitate the option of home-working, including provision of equipment and internet access
- Wider provision of part-time working options for career-returners
- Move to a 4-day working week so that men have the opportunity to take domestic responsibilities
Read the Science Council’s submission to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on the Gender Pay Gap.